Published by Ana Etxebarria, 11th May 2012
You always swore not be a controlling parent, promised not to spy on your children, you set yourself the objective to educate them to be responsible adults and yet, suddenly, one day you find yourself spying your preteen Facebook account … What happened?
To make matters worse, you make an unforgivable mistake. You make an informal comment on his wall, just like that, something about the shirt he is wearing in one of the pictures he has uploaded (you are certain that you have not bought the shirt) and this is where your little boy bursts in anger like a caveman and begins to accuse you of spying, of publicly embarrass him in front of his friends.
Your worry is normal. Yet, do not torture yourself, although your offspring thinks and so he constantly reminds you of it, you have not suddenly become an abominable being.
As much as you trust your children, when they reach a certain age, parents should be very much on top of things. But how can we do so without appearing to distrust or interfere too much on their privacy?
First of all, sit down with your child and let him know the first condition in your home when he uses social networks such as Facebook is that you are one of his “friends”. This conversation should aim to make him understand how important it is for you to be forward and honest, just the opposite of feeling spied on. Unless your relationship with your child is very special, under no circumstance should you comment on his photos or status updates. Do not make him feel ashamed, at this age these things can end up dramatically.
Teach him to think the same way a cybercriminal would. Teens create web profiles to express themselves. They need to understand their own identities, and tell others. It’s part of growing up. But cyberspace can be dangerous. So make him realise how easily personal information can be shared with strangers and the dangers this entails.
It is much easier to be “permissive”, “tolerant” and “open” if we are confident that our, however much we are reluctant to admit, not-so-children, know the dangers that social networks involve. And of course, nobody better than us to teach them to mature. Demand them to behave in a grown-up way yet lead them by example!